‘The morale has taken a real hit’

David Johnston, managing director for children's social care and learning at Bucks County Council
David Johnston, managing director for children's social care and learning at Bucks County Council

The new face of Bucks County Council’s children’s services department vows to regain the trust of the public after the damning Ofsted report.

David Johnston took the reigns from Sue Imbriano after she stepped down following the report in August, in which inspectors highlighted a catalogue of the council’s failures in protecting the county’s vulnerable children.

Former Ofsted inspector Mr Johnston said: “For the last few weeks I have been building my knowledge, speaking to staff and making contact.

“We have a really committed work force but morale has taken a real hit. People don’t come into jobs like this to fail children.

“If something isn’t working, we either change it or stop doing it. I need to uncover and understand what is working well, and we need to hear from the children and the service users.”

Mr Johnston, who has 33 years experience in the sector, said the public has lost trust in the system and that his priority would be ‘getting the safeguarding service working well for children’.

He said: “Part of that trust is transparency. The safety of children is a our priority. That is what people expect and that is what we will give them, but there will be set backs from time to time.”

Former Ofsted inspector Mr Johnston – who has previously worked for Suffolk County Council – said it could take between one to two years to get the service into a state where it would be rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, after the report in August highlighted major weaknesses in the department.

There are nearly 2,500 children in Bucks who have been assessed as needing a service from the department.

Between June and September, an external company was drafted in with agency staff working through the backlog of cases.

Several new permanent staff members have already been hired and Mr Johnston said they are ‘getting on with’ the task in hand.